Gender themed face masks for kids have been branded ‘sexist’ after a little girl came from school with a pink one covered in kisses while her brother had plain blue.
Dr Catherine Lebel said her eight-year-old daughter was “annoyed” with the two masks printed with love-hearts and kisses reading ‘xoxo’ she was given – calling them “stupid.”
The masks were by issued by a Canadian provincial government for schools to hand out to students and were designed by Old Navy, the researcher said.
The Calgary mum told Mirror Online her family already had their own masks but she was concerned about the message the colours sent to young pupils.
“My daughter came home and said it was stupid that her class got ‘girls’ and ‘boys’ masks, because there were no such things,” Dr Lebel said.
“She was not hugely upset, just annoyed.”
The University of Calgary Associate Professor of Radiology wasn’t happy to see that the masks, designed to protect all people from the deadly global pandemic, divided by gender.
When she tweeted a picture of the masks, she got a huge response with many branding the difference as sexist.
Twitter user Jade wrote: “If they were just pink and blue masks, I’d move on and wouldn’t comment.
“But I’m concerned about the lips/kisses on the “girl” masks. I’m not down with what that suggests, encourages, or celebrates and how it could be interpreted and used against the girls who are wearing them.”
Others pointed out their sons preferred pink – one parent told her their boy chose a unicorn print when he was allowed to pick out his own mask.
The Alberta Government said parents were welcome to reject the masks – stating they were for protection against Covid-19 – “not fashion statements or political agendas.”
Dr Lebel said she backed her daughter’s reaction – and would have felt the same way she did.
She said: “I am irritated by this, but not outraged. Certainly this is not the biggest thing we have to worry about right now, and I am glad to see the school providing masks.
“However, it seems unnecessary to promote gender stereotypes and I think it’s important to call them out when I see them.”
“The gendering just seems unnecessary. Masks are masks and can be for whoever they fit.
“We try really hard not to talk about things being only for girls or boys and I really want kids (not just my own) to grow up with a sense of equal opportunity. “
Dr Lebel had already made masks at home with her kids, and they planned to wear those instead.
She said she didn’t blame her kids’ school – saying teachers were doing the best they could with what they were given by officials in a tough situation.
“Our provincial government has not committed the time and money necessary to develop a well-thought out school reopening plan.
“While this mask thing is a minor issue, I think the lack of planning and insight is showing here.”
The Government of Alberta said it had successfully distributed 1.7 million masks and other PPE, while encouraging parents and schools to get extra gear for a safe return to classes.
A spokesman for Alberta’s Municipal Affairs said: ” The masks came in a wide variety of colours and patterns from Old Navy and IFR Workwear, and our government had absolutely zero input in deciding which colours were sent.
“The sole goal of the masks is preventing the spread of COVID-19, not fashion statements or political agendas.
“If parents do not like the specific provided masks, they are free to take their concerns to their local schools or purchase other masks.”
Dr Lebel more recently attracted attention for her work researching how anxiety, stress and stress in pregnancy during the pandemic could affect coronavirus generation babies.
She and fellow researchers are following babies born during the pandemic to look at how their mums’ stress when they were in the womb could affect them in later life.
The high-profile study is exploring ways to boost resilience and how to protect mums and babies from knock-on effects in the aftermath of the pandemic.
The preliminary findings point to exercise during pregnancy as a potential way to ease stress, Dr Lebel said.
She told Mirror Online: “The pandemic has been stressful for many people, but pregnant individuals may be particularly impacted.
“This is concerning both because of the effects on the women themselves, but also because prenatal stress can have long-lasting impacts on children.”
“Our first results showed dramatically elevated symptoms of depression and anxiety among pregnant women (3-4 times what is normal).”
“We also found that women with more social support and who got more exercise had lower symptoms, suggesting these may offer some protection.”
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